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Bonding to Existing Concrete

posted by Bob Monday, November 22, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Fact: Fresh wet concrete does not normally bond well to existing dry concrete. Do you remember elementary school where one of the subjects on which you were graded was “plays well with others”? Concrete would have gotten an F. There is nothing in basic portland cement that will act as a bonding agent. Portland cement concrete works well in mass and provides great compressive strength but not bond.

Concrete is marvelous stuff but in time it will deteriorate. When it does, you either have to patch it or replace it. Assuming that it is structurally sound the least expensive alternative is to patch it. However patching it requires some attention to detail or your patch will not last. So that you don’t waste too much time or money, we should probably discuss what “structurally sound” means. If your sidewalk has either heaved or dropped at almost every joint, repairing it will not provide a long-term solution. The slabs are likely still moving. If your slab has so much sand and gravel on the surface that despite sweeping and sweeping and squirting and squirting it just keeps coming back, don’t waste your time on repairs. If you have multiple cracks that run so deep that they appear to run through the slab, a repair would only be temporary. The solution to all of these problems involves a jackhammer and bags of one of the Sakrete concretes.

Since this discussion is on the best way to bond concrete, we will assume that your slab is good.

There are a variety of Sakrete concrete repair products available to fix concrete that has begun to deteriorate. However, without good surface preparation, none of them are going to perform satisfactorily. All loose sand, gravel, dirt, leaves etc. must be removed. This can typically be done with a garden hose and a good nozzle. Tough areas may require a pressure washer or mechanical abrasion. The two toughest areas to cover are those with oil and tree sap. Both of these will work their way down into the concrete. Simply washing the surface isn’t sufficient. If the stains do not run too deep, you can chip away the concrete using a hammer and chisel. Don’t forget the goggles (not just glasses) as this process will throw concrete all over the place. Also, keep your thumb out of the way. If the spots are too large or too deep for this to be practical, you may need a sealer to cover the stains before patching.

There are two basic methods for bonding a portland cement based product to existing concrete; 1) chemically and 2) mechanically.

Let’s discuss the mechanical approach first since it is really used in both approaches. The most effective way to ensure a really good bond is with a scratch coat. This is simply a very wet coat made up by mixing the repair product with water. Mix up a small amount of the repair material to a soupy consistency. You don’t need to measure the water-just turn the stuff into slop. Then, using a gloved hand or a rag, smear the material onto the area to be patched. Just think finger painting from kindergarten. The technique is about the same. Apply pressure to ensure that as much as possible is shoved into the nocks and crannies. You only need a thin coat. It is not necessary for this scratch coat to dry. By the time you get the repair material mixed it will be ready. Then mix up additional repair material to the proper consistency and apply over this thin scratch coat.

The chemical approach involved mixing up a liquid bonding agent that helps bond new concrete products to old. Products like Sakrete Top'n Bond and Sakrete Flo-Coat already contain polymers that greatly improve the bond of portland cement and should NEVER be used with a liquid bonding agent. I know in America bigger is better but it’s just not so with these products. Other products like Sakrete Sand Mix and Sakrete Fast Set Cement Patcher benefit from the use of a liquid chemical bonding agent such as Sakrete Bonder/Fortifier. When using a liquid bonding agent, paint the bonder onto the existing concrete and allow it to dry until it is tacky. This usually takes only a few minutes. Then apply the repair material. Just as in the process described above, after the bonder has become tacky apply a scratch coat and then apply the repair material. The most effective way to ensure that the bonding agent gets into the existing concrete is to apply it directly using a brush or rag. It can be sprayed if you happen to have a sprayer. Although the directions say that you can use it as part of the mix water, direct application works better.

If you are doing a large area and a scratch coat isn’t practical you will need to spray the surface with water before you apply the repair material. On a warm day, the existing concrete surface will be hot enough to suck the water out of the repair material. In addition, some concretes are quite porous and will rob water from your repair material. If too much water is lost into the old concrete there will not be enough water to hydrate all of the cement particles and a lower strength material will be the result. Concrete simply will not bond to all substances. Paint, oil, glue from old flooring tiles are just a few. You must mechanically remove these materials if you want the job to last.

Once the job is complete, you can do a quick check to see if the bond was successful. Wait at least 24 hours and then tap “gently” on the patch using a hammer or some other dull object and listen for a hollow echoing sound. If you just get a dull thud then the material has bonded well. If you get a hollow sound, the material has not bonded and will crack in time. Which means it is back to the beginning of today’s topic. Here is hoping your concrete work comes across as a dull thud (not like some of my party guests) rather than a hollow endeavor.



Cheri, Sakrete Flo-Coat is perfect for this type of repair. First be sure to remove any loose material, dirt, dust, paint, stain, etc. Sakrete Flo-Coat can be applied from ½” down to as thin as a feather edge. To apply Sakrete Flo-Coat use a squeegee and pull the material into place. Once in place finish by adding texture with a soft bristle broom by lightly pulling the broom across the surface.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 9:18 AM

Dean, yes, you can add another layer of Sakrete Flo-Coat once it has cured for at least 28 days.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 9:09 AM

I have a stamped concrete patio that, apparently was never sealed. I made a rookie mistake this winter and threw salt down on it the melt some thick ice that had formed and when the ice flow melted I had ruined my patio! The top layer of the concrete bubbled and peeled off! It is a fairly large patio and also fairly deep. There is road base/old patio under it and it is about three and half feet deep! Clearly, it would be cost prohibitive to jackhammer out and replace. What would be the best method for me to use to fix this?
- Cheri
Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 11:01 PM

We used a trowel to add Sakrete flo-coat on a 50 year-old rough but clean concrete slab in basement. Looks like there was a chemical reaction with the old floor. Small bubbles of air pushed out of the flo-coat and has made tiny round holes and in some place tiny bumps everywhere. Can a second thin coat of flo-coat be applied with a squeegee on top of the existing flo-coat to hide holes and bumps?
- Dean
Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 6:21 PM

JJ, there are 2 ways to bond old concrete with new concrete. First is a chemical bond by way of a bonding agent. Second is a mechanical bond by way of rebar or wire lath. The mechanical bond provides more durability and strength if installed properly.
- Chris Technical Services
Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 1:44 PM

Mark, unfortunately there is no way to tell if a crack is active or will return once patched. Since the slab the steps are sitting on is deteriorating you may want to consider removing the slab all together and starting from scratch. A solid substrate is essential to a quality repair. Sakrete Sand Mix is recommended for horizontal/wear topping surfaces. We recommended using Sakrete Bonder and Fortifier as an admixture for better adhesion.
- Chris Technical Services
Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 1:39 PM

Our co-op is a 5 story apt building. The old facade is crumbling off. We have gotten proposals to repair the old facade. One proposal says he will use weldcrete to bond the old and new concrete. The other proposal says he will use a wire mesh. Which is better value over time? We are not sure which is best or why the different approaches. Could you offer any suggestions? Thanx
- JJ
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 5:40 PM

hello- i recently removed the flagstones from our front porch landing (ny state), because they were cracked and shifting - they were originally set in 3-4 inches of mortar on top of, what appears to be a 8-9 inch thick concrete slab. The slab is chipped, and crumbling in most spots and has settled (creating a 1/4 crack through center). I'm thinking if adding a 2- 3" concrete overlay to the existing slab, then setting the same stones in a 3/4" to 1" mortar bed - im not concerned with finished look of concrete overlay, only integrity. Will this last, or will settlement crack return up through flagstones, and if ok, which sakrete overlay materials would be best (bonding agent?, reinforcing mesh?)- thank you.
- Mark
Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 3:54 PM

Joe, Sakrete Sand Mix with Sakrete Bonder and Fortifier as an admixture will provide the adhesion and depth up to 2” that is needed for this system. Prep the surface by removing any bond breakers such as paint, stain, dirt, dust, sealer, oil, etc. A French drain may be another alternative to think about.
- Chris Technical Services
Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Kelly, the type of repair will determine which method of bonding is most effective. For example an addition to a driveway would require a Mechanical bond, whereas a patch 2” deep a chemical bond is recommended.
- Chris Technical Services
Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 10:35 AM



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